GUEST BLOG: How Do You Make a Story Funny? with Anna Staniszewski

It’s my pleasure today to have  Anna Staniszewki, the talented and funny children’s author as my guest. This is one stop on her whirlwind blog tour to celebrate the March 2013 launch of her latest novel, MY EPIC FAIRY TALE FAIL (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky). Her first book in this trilogy, MY VERY UNFAIRY TALE LIFE, was released in November 2011, and the third, MY SORT OF FAIRY TALE ENDING, will be out this coming November. What’s the (not so secret) ingredient in Anna’s writing?  Her humor, of course.  So, for today’s post,  she’ll be chatting about how she makes her stories funny.  Take it away, Anna!

How do I make a story funny?

That’s a loaded question, but it’s one that I’m grappling with right now as I work on the third book in my UnFairy Tale Life series. I have the plot. I have the characters. Now, I just need to bring it all together with some over-the-top humor. Easy, right? Um. No.

The truth is, being funny on command is HARD. You sometimes feel like a dancing monkey. But here are three techniques that I like to use (with examples from my second book) to bring humor to a story.

Exaggerate

I love taking characters or situations and making them bigger. If I bring Sleeping Beauty into my story, why not make her a narcoleptic? A brave knight is a pretty standard fairy tale figure, but what if he’s so brave that he thinks he needs to save fair maidens from everything, even pieces of falling dust? The more you inflate certain elements, the more fun you’ll have with them.

Use Contrasts

If your characters encounter a flesh-eating troll, you wouldn’t expect that troll to have a proper British accent, wire-rimmed glasses, and an affinity for puzzles. But taking the troll’s blood-thirsty nature and contrasting it with his polite and scholarly personality makes him an interesting character to play with.

Go for the Unexpected

Everyone knows that a fairy tale needs a big, bad wolf, right? Well, what if that wolf wears gym shorts and works out all the time? Yes, it’s kind of random, but I tried to make it fit into the story. I think that’s the trick with the unexpected: you want your reader to laugh at the surprise of it, but you don’t want it to be so bizarre that it pulls the reader completely out of the story.

And there you are. Three magical ingredients for making a story funny. Use them wisely. And remember: the trick is to make yourself laugh. If you giggle your way through a story then so will your readers.

Bio:

Born in Poland and raised in the United States, Anna Staniszewski grew up loving stories in both Polish and English. She was named the 2006-2007 Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library and a winner of the 2009 PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award. Currently, Anna lives outside of Boston, Mass. with her husband and their adopted black Labrador, Emma. When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time teaching, reading, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch. You can visit her at www.annastan.com.

For her latest book trailer go to http://youtu.be/swaAIZbhvWE

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14 thoughts on “GUEST BLOG: How Do You Make a Story Funny? with Anna Staniszewski

  1. Some writers just don’t “do funny” well. I’d suggest that finding your own voice (or voices) would be better that forcing humorous writing by trying to follow rules.
    There are days that “funny” just rolls off the tips of my typing fingers. Anna’s analysis fits what happens then. I let it happen.
    And ,of course, Anna herself writes funny very well. Just check her books out!

    • You make a very good point, Mirka, and the same general advice could be applied to writing in rhyme as well. The most important key to success, it seems, is finding and then developing your natural voice. Thanks for this important reminder!

    • Mirka, I absolutely agree. I would never suggest that someone try to force humor into a story, but if you’re already going for humor then I think there are ways to amp it up even more. 🙂

  2. Pingback: Author Interview: Anna Staniszewski {MY VERY UNFAIRY TALE LIFE} | Ghenet Myrthil

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